As was to be expected in a field that relies heavily on the movement of people and merchandises, the humanitarian sector has been largely affected by the recent coronavirus crisis. Some local charities saw donations dwindle, while others had to stop accepting them altogether. This is all happening while other humanitarian disasters are raging but not getting the coverage they deserve due to the coronavirus dominating the headlines.
Somalia’s Crops Under Attack
In events that might appear almost biblical, Somalia is facing one of the worst locust invasions in the country’s history. So much so that a state of emergency was declared earlier this year in February.
Somali fields have been ravaged by swarms of locusts that can span hundreds of square kilometers, according to the United Nations FAO organization. Each square kilometer can count over 75 million locusts, which can consume as much food in one day as around 35,000 people.
Coronavirus Measures are Affecting Aid
The issue here is that border closures have been hampering humanitarian responses in the area. “Normally, you would see plenty of FAO trucks whenever the locust swarms become too big,” said Mohamed Mohamud, ethnologist at the International Center of Insect Physiology and Ecology. “With the coronavirus and all the blockades, movement and all the help that could be provided comes to a halt.”
Internal Shutdowns Are Also Having an Effect
While border shutdowns are blocking the entry of important equipment, food and supplies, internal shutdowns are also complicating the logistics of humanitarian aid. The manager of the World Food Program, Neera Sharma, recalls the difficulties she had to go through to change the program into a take-at-home model in Nepal: “There was nothing during May, June, and July,” she said. This is because the program had to be compliant with new WHO rules and meet the requirements of both the Nepalese government and the United States Department of Agriculture which supports part of the efforts.
Distribution efforts were further complicated by the fact that many schools had to be converted into emergency centers. “A lot of these children count on these meals, and countless Nepalese children go to school on an empty stomach. These children already had difficulty concentrating before the coronavirus,” said Sharma.
Organizations Are Trying to Help in Their Own Way
All of these restrictions haven’t stopped all organizations, however. Some have been using their platforms wisely for instance. The organization recently launched its #inourhands campaign, aimed at spreading COVID-19 awareness in countries that are the most in need.
Their movement has been getting a lot of traction and encourages followers to do their part either by showing videos of them following hygiene protocols, posting selfies showing their face and a message in the palm of their hands, or tagging the organization’s name among other things.
The virus is showing to be disruptive at many levels, and there’s still no telling what can be done to correct the situation. There is a glimmer of hope, however, as teams are learning to do the best with the limitations and rearrange their operations.